Matthew 1:18, God the Son? Part I of IV

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

//In several past blog posts, I introduced the high Christology of John’s Gospel. In that Gospel, Jesus is presented clearly as God. On the other side of the spectrum, however, is Matthew’s Gospel. These two gospels–Matthew and John–build upon some of the same building blocks, but have gone two different directions. Nowhere is this more evident than in their differing Christology.

We’ve discussed John, so over the course of several posts, I’d like to discuss Matthew’s take on who Jesus is. The conclusion, each time, will be that it never crossed Matthew’s mind that Jesus is God.

In preparing for this discussion, I urge you to recognize that all of the Gospels were written anonymously. All were written between 40 and 70 years after Jesus died, by men who had most likely never seen Jesus. All were written in Greek, not Jesus’ native Aramaic tongue. It is important for this study to divorce yourself from the assumption that the authors of Matthew and John sat together at the feet of Jesus, learning the same doctrine.

Let’s begin with Matthew’s greatest contribution to Christian theology. It is this: Jesus is God’s son. Now, this doesn’t sound very astounding at first. Every Gospel writer calls Jesus the Son of God, and so does Paul, the earliest Christian writer. But how might this phrase have been meant by other writers? In the century of Christ, there were two common understandings of how this phrase was meant in the Old Testament:

[1] A minor deity or angel. The “sons of God” procreated with the daughters of men in Genesis, and the “sons of God” traversed the earth in Job.

[2] One ordained by God, such as the kings of Israel.

Matthew rejects both of these meanings, and falls back on legends of gods mating with humans. Such legends were common in the Hellenistic world, and can even be read in the Bible: See Genesis 6:4. To Matthew, “Son of God” means precisely what it sounds like. Matthew quotes from the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew, to show that a “virgin” (instead of just a young maiden) will conceive and bear a son. Matthew’s particular contribution here is very important: He is dogmatic that Mary was impregnated not by Joseph, but by God Himself. She was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Now we see just how astounding Matthew’s claim is! Matthew insists that Jesus is more than the expected Messiah. He is–gasp–the very offspring of God! When Matthew uses the phrase “Son of God,” he in no way implies “God the Son.” Contrary to John, Matthew gives no hint that Jesus existed before birth. God, in spirit form, came down from heaven, impregnated Mary, and formed a half-human-half-god offspring. Jesus.

Jesus is God? John says yes. But it never crossed Matthew’s mind.

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